Rob Verbakel has added another stamp to his bulging rugby passport. The Kurow lock, who has already represented Otago, Canterbury, Glasgow and Northampton, has made his test debut for the Netherlands. He was in touch with Hayden Meikle over the Christmas break.
Q: Where are you living at the moment?
I’m living in a small town called Bussum, just outside Amsterdam. It is where my club t’ Gooi are based. I am living with two other players from the club that are also playing for the national team.
Q: What is the Dutch league like?
I play for t’ Gooi in the Dutch Ereklasse (top league). We play in a 12-team competition that varies a lot in its strength and style. There are a couple of strong teams with a number of foreign players. The Dutch are very passionate about rugby, and the sport is growing here.
Q: When did you first learn of your selection in the Dutch national team?
I was named in the Dutch squad a couple of months before our first game of the season. I was named in the team to play the Ukraine just a few days before the game.
Q: When did you make your test debut?
Against Ukraine on November 5.
Q: Was playing for the Netherlands always a possibility?
Yes, I have been thinking about playing for the Netherlands for the past couple of years. It became more of a reality when I was playing in the UK. I qualify through my parents.
Q: How long will you stay over there?
I’m unsure how long I will stay here. It depends on enjoyment and employment.
Q: The Kurow club suffered another tragic blow in October when Marshall Smith drowned in the Waitaki River. What are your memories of your locking partner?
I didn’t know Marshall long but we got on well as we had many similar interests. He was a great guy to be around, full of energy, and I loved hearing stories about his adventures in New Zealand and abroad. He was always friendly and made me feel very welcome in Kurow. On the paddock, he was a very competitive player who loved the game and a man you could trust to give it his all.